Women Who Showed Up

By Ann Sullivan
WIPP Chief Advocate

When reviewing the election results in this year’s November elections, my initial reaction was that it was no big deal – the Democrats got some wins that weren’t expected in an off-election year. So what? My second thought was that Democrats would take these wins and blow them out of proportion – citing an electorate mandate for Democrats. I also expected that Republicans would shrug their shoulders, calling it an anomaly, and go about their tax reform plan.

But what I missed the first time around was the major story—the large number of women that ran and won. Equally fascinating are the stories about their motivations to run.  Since hearing WIPP’s annual meeting speaker, Jennifer Lawless who heads the American University’s Center for Women and Politics, I haven’t stopped talking about the importance of women leading this nation. It is my firm belief that women in office will change the trajectory of partisan politics regardless of party affiliation.  While much of the media centered their attention on the racial diversity and sexual orientation of these women, the fact is their victories also speak to the underrepresentation of women in local, state and federal offices.

There were some serious victories for women in Virginia. A record number of women were on the ballot in Virginia—53 to be exact, up 18% from the previous 45. In the Virginia House of Delegates, the number of women increased about 50%. There will be 27 women serving in the lower chamber next session (1 race is still too close to call).

In New Jersey, women also showed up on the ballot, with 79 on this cycle, which is a 10% increase from 2013. But the numbers are not just impressive- there were many “firsts” during this election cycle for women, as well as women of color.

Milledgeville, Georgia elected its first Black female mayor, Mary Parham-Copelan. Santa Barbara, California, elected its first Latina Mayor, Cathy Murillo. Aurora, Colorado elected Crystal Murillo, a 23-year-old recent graduate who defeated a 79-year-old incumbent. New Jersey elected its first Black lieutenant governor, Sheila Oliver. Charlotte, North Carolina elected its first black female mayor, Vi Lyles. Manchester, New Hampshire elected its first female mayor, Joyce Craig. Seattle elected a woman mayor, Jenny Durkan. Topeka, Kansas elected its first Latina and second woman mayor, Michelle De La Isla.

The stories behind these wins are inspirational.  Ashley Bennett who won a County council seat (called Freeman in NJ) was motivated to run after hearing the incumbent “joke” that women belong in the kitchen.  She told the Washington Post that his meme in reference to the March on Washington asked, “Will the woman’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?” When she complained to her family, they encouraged her to run for the seat.  She won.

Or Vi Lyles, the first African American female mayor of Charlotte, NC who outworked her opponent even though she was outspent.  Saying that Charlotte should be the city of opportunity and inclusiveness, she cited her father’s lack of a high school diploma.

Seattle picked a female mayor Jenny Durkan. The significance in that race was that it was an all-woman mayoral slate in a major US city.

Michelle De La Isla, the new mayor Topeka, Kansas came to office in an environment which would have discouraged most.  Homeless at 17 and pregnant at 19 in Puerto Rico, her degree at Wichita State University propelled her life in a different direction.  She told the New York Times, “All these experiences I’ve turned into blessings,” Ms. De La Isla said. “It’s easier to serve people when you’re not judging them from the get-go.”

The nonpartisan She Should Run organization says 15,000 women have inquired about running for office this year – a record number.  Given that there are around 500,000 elected positions in the United States to fill, 15,000 inquiries seems like a drop in the bucket but a good start.  Not everyone has to run, but women are needed to assist in campaigns and provide much needed financial support for those who are.

Ashley Bennett, cited above gave some advice to women who are considering running for office.  “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not your turn,” she said. “If you’re fearful about it, do it afraid and see it through. Because you never know what could happen.”

Our time is now.

October Policy Watch: Taxes, Budget & More

WIPP Government Affairs

GOP Releases Tax Reform Proposal: What’s in it for you?

Congress has finally taken the long-awaited steps toward implementing tax reform. GOP leaders released their framework for tax reform in a proposal entitled, “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” Provisions pertinent for small business in the plan include:

  • Limits the maximum rate applied to pass-through entities to 25% (currently 39.6%)
  • Reduces the corporate rate to 20% (currently 35%)
  • Consolidates the seven individual tax brackets to three: 12%, 25%, and 35%
  • Allows room for Congress to add a fourth bracket for high income earners
  • Repeals the Estate Tax
  • Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
  • Eliminates taxes on the first $24,000 of income earned by a married couple and the first $12,000 of income earned by a single individual (currently $12,700 for married filers and $6,350 for single filers)
  • Eliminates the standard deduction and personal exemption for filers
  • Allows businesses to expense the cost of new investments in depreciable assets for five years
  • Partially limits the deduction for net interest expense incurred by C corporations
  • Eliminates some itemized deductions (but does not specify which provisions)
  • Eliminates § 199 manufacturing deduction
  • Retains tax benefits for retirement security (401K, IRA)
  • Implements territorial tax system

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) attended the WIPP Annual Leadership Meeting Luncheon to talk about the plan and to answer questions from members.

Finalizing the Budget: Why Does It Matter?

If both the House and the Senate do not pass an FY2018 Budget, the GOP tax reform framework cannot pass in its current form. Congress hopes to pass tax reform though reconciliation, a process that allows the Senate to pass budget-related legislation with a simple 51 majority vote, instead of the 60 votes typically required. The GOP has a 52-48 majority in the Senate. If the budget resolutions do not pass, the tax reform package negotiated by the Administration and GOP Congressional leaders would require at least eight Democratic votes.

Last week, the House passed their FY2018 Budget Resolution, H. Con. Res. 71, which contains reconciliation language that directs the House Ways and Means Committee to begin drafting tax reform legislation. The House resolution provides $300 billion over 10 years to pay for tax reform. The Senate Budget Committee also passed their FY2018 Budget Resolution.  The Senate resolution contains reconciliation language that provides the Senate Finance Committee with $1.5 trillion over 10 years for tax reform.

The bill will be taken up by the Senate when they return from recess next week.

SBA Issues Notice of WOSB NAICS Changes

SBA is responsible for implementing and administering the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program. The WOSB Program authorizes federal contracting officers to restrict competition for an acquisition to WOSBs, provided that appropriate conditions are met. In order to identify the industries eligible for set-asides under the WOSB Program, the SBA administrator has to conduct a study every five years to identify which industries WOSBs are underrepresented in in the Federal marketplace. As a result of the 2014 study findings, SBA increased the number of NAICS codes authorized for use under the WOSB Program to 113 four-digit NAICS industry groups, effective March 3, 2016. Consequently, WOSBs have been able to compete for and receive contract awards in 92 four-digit NAICS industry groups or 365 six-digit NAICS codes. EDWOSBs have been able to compete for and receive contract awards in 21 designated four-digit NAICS industry groups or 80 six-digit NAICS codes, in addition to those authorized for WOSBs.

On August 8, 2016, OMB published its most recent update to the NAICS industry groups, NAICS 2017, “Notice of NAICS 2017 final decisions.” These went into effect on January 1, 2017. In order to align the WOSB Program with the Notice of NAICS 2017 final decisions and SBA’s adoption of NAICS 2017 for its size standards, SBA is issuing this notice to amend the NAICS codes eligible for use under the WOSB Program.

Changes to WOSB NAICS

  1. 2012 NAICS codes 333911 and 333913 à 2017 NAICS code 333914 [Due to merges from the four digit codes]
  • 333911: Pump and Pumping Equipment Manufacturing à 333914 Measuring, Dispensing, and Other Pumping Equipment Manufacturing
    • Measuring and Dispensing Pump à Measuring, Dispensing, and Other
  • 333913: Manufacturing à 333914 Pumping Equipment Manufacturing
  1. 2012 NAICS codes 512210 and 512220 à 2017 NAICS code 512250 [Merged Industries]
  • 512210 Record Production à 512250 Record Production and Distribution
  • 512220 Integrated Record Production/Distribution à 512250 Record Production and Distribution
  1. 2012 NAICS code 517110 à 2017 NAICS code 517311
  • 517110 Wired Telecommunications Carriers à 517311 Wired Telecommunications Carriers
  1. 2012 NAICS code 517210 à 2017 NAICS code 517312 [Changed without changing definitions or titles]
  • 517210 Wired Telecommunications Carriers (Except Satellite) à 517312 Wired Telecommunications Carriers (Except Satellite)
  1. 2012 NAICS code 541711 will correspond to 2017 NAICS codes 541713 and 541714 [New industries were created by splitting two industries into two parts with one part of each industry defined as a separate industry and combining other parts of the two industries to form a separate new industry]
  • 541711 Research and Development in Biotechnology will correspond to 541713 Research and Development in Nanotechnology and 541714 Research and Development in Biotechnology (except Nanotechnology)
  1. 2012 NAICS code 541712 will correspond to 2017 NAICS codes 541713 and 541715
  • Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology) will correspond to 541713 Research and Development in Nanotechnology and 541715 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Nanotechnology and Biotechnology)

Senate Small Business Committee Highlights Tax Burdens on Small Businesses

Last week, the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee took up one of the most important issues for Congress this year—tax reform. The committee held a hearing on tax reform to address the code’s current barriers to small business growth. Witnesses testifying before the Committee included Mark Mazur, director of Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Annette Nellen, chair of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and Brian Reardon, president of S Corporation Association.

Both the majority and minority voiced the importance of the small business voice when considering tax reform. Chair James Risch (R-ID) began the hearing by pointing to a grim fact: tax compliance costs are 67% higher for small businesses. Due to these extraordinary costs, roughly 89% of small business owners have to rely on outside assistance to comply with the tax code. As we all know, time is money. Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) commented on the length and complexity of the tax code, pointing out that small businesses spend 2.5 billion hours complying with IRS rules. These hours are valuable time wasted on compliance that could be used for growing a business.

Too Much Time and Too Much Money

Questions from members of the committee centered around the increased burdens and costs of tax compliance that small businesses experience. Annettee Nellen from AICPA highlighted in her testimony that tax relief should apply to all businesses, not just C-corps. This is at the core of WIPP’s policy recommendations: to reform the tax code to make deductions and credits equitable, no matter the structure of the company. Mark Mazur, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, added that the current tax system is “woefully” out of date as it applies to business income. In changing the tax code, Congress will have to look at how different the economy is today from the last time the code was revised, he advised. As pointed out in WIPP’s 2017 Economic Blueprint, pass through entities are subject to a top individual tax rate of 43.4%, and with state and local tax rates ranging up to 13.3%, this significantly hampers business growth.

Institutional Barriers for Women

Ranking Member Shaheen referenced research conducted by WIPP and American University’s Kogod Tax Policy Center. “The last time the tax code was updated, there were only four million women-owned small businesses,” said Shaheen. “Today, there are 11.3 million, making up 38% of firms in this country.” She noted that Congress does not have enough information on women-owned businesses citing the Kogod study, Billion Dollar Blind Spot, asking the panel how Congress and the administration can improve the tax code for women business owners. Mazur agreed, noting that additional resources should be allocated by the IRS to determine barriers for women-owned businesses.

There is certainly agreement from both sides of the aisle that it is time for a change when it comes to tax reform and that the concerns of small businesses should be taken into consideration. This was the first of many conversations that will take place on this critical issue.

To read the written testimony from the hearing, click here.

To read the WIPP and Kogod tax study, click here.

To read WIPP’s 2017 Economic blueprint, click here.

Writing YOUR Success Story

By Linda McMahon, SBA Administrator

Once upon a time….

It’s the classic opening to our favorite fairy tales. As children we dream of magic potions and knights in shining armor that will provide our happily ever after. How were we to know thalinda-mcmahon-high.jpgt our own hard work, skill and determination could be far more effective?

Once upon a time, my husband and I started our business sharing a desk. As he developed our product and expanded our markets, I managed the books. When the work became too much for the two of us to handle ourselves, we hired our first employee. As our business grew, we hired another. Then another. Over decades of hard work growing our business, that company we created now has grown to a publicly traded enterprise with more than 800 employees and consumers in 180 countries worldwide.

As an entrepreneur, I have truly lived the American Dream: the classic tale of taking a risk on an idea, working hard and creating something from nothing. Don’t get me wrong – we had plenty of stumbles and challenges that provided the plot twists along the way. But it’s a story I am always proud to tell.

And as head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, my goal now is to help more people have the opportunity to live the American Dream.

Yet many aspiring entrepreneurs have no idea how to get their stories started or write their next chapters.

The SBA is here to help, with resources both online and in communities from coast to coast.

During National Small Business Week, as we celebrate the 28 million small businesses that drive our nation’s economy, we also showcase the resources and services the SBA provides to entrepreneurs at every stage, whether they are starting up, expanding or getting through a tough time.

The SBA has 68 district offices and an extensive network of resource partners across America, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. The experienced professionals that staff these offices offer a core group of services that we call the “three Cs and a D” – capital accesscounselingcontracts, and disaster assistance.

Many entrepreneurs need capital to start or expand their small business, combining what they have with other sources of financing. While the SBA doesn’t loan money directly to small business owners, it helps facilitate loans with a guaranty that a certain portion will be repaid. We offer counseling on starting, scaling and succeeding in business, from how to draft a business plan to how to export your product overseas. And we train small businesses on how to compete for government contracts, especially those set aside exclusively for small business owners. Finally, SBA provides a helping hand to small businesses recovering from disasters.

As I think back on my own story as a small business owner, I wonder how much easier things might have been if we’d been aware of the many valuable services SBA provides. My hope is that as more people learn about the SBA, they will have the confidence, skills and resources they need to succeed as small business owners, and we can continue to revitalize a spirit of entrepreneurship in our country.

There’s room for far more success stories in our library.

And the SBA can help more entrepreneurs write their own “happily ever after.”

Linda McMahon serves as the 25th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.




The confusion surrounding the federal budget debate

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Recently, WIPP’s President Jane Campbell and I gave a webinar on the federal budget process, which attempted to explain all of the moving parts in the federal budget, including what it means to businesses and the organizations they support. Below I have laid out the steps in the process as simply as possible.

Immediate action item

  1. The funding for Fiscal Year (FY)17 ends on April 28, 2017, therefore Congress must act on or before that date to keep funding the government for the remainder of FY17, which ends on September 30, 2017. FY17 has been funded through a Continuing Resolution (CR), meaning that FY17 has been funded at FY16 levels. While under a CR, federal agencies cannot award grants or initiate new program starts.

Funding options for FY17

(a) A Continuing Resolution until the Fiscal Year ends, or

(b) An “omnibus” appropriations bill to fund the rest of the year. Omnibus simply means putting the 10 remaining agency appropriations into one big bill. The Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department bill were signed into law, so there are 10 agencies remaining.

The president can request supplemental appropriations in the current fiscal year, which is exactly what President Trump did in March. He requested $30 billion more for FY17 funding for defense and homeland security. Congress will decide whether or not to honor his request, which would be rolled into the FY17 Omnibus bill.

Longer-term action items

  1. Funding for FY18—which starts October 1, 2017. The House Appropriations Committee is responsible for starting the funding process, and revenue bills must start in the House. The committee is just now starting hearings on funding programs, and subcommittees of this committee have responsibility for certain federal agencies. For example, the Treasury and SBA are funded by the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. The three-part process is as follows: Subcommittees act first, the full Appropriations Committee considers, and then the bills go to the House floor for action.
  2. Raising the debt ceiling will be required sometime this fall. Why does that matter? If it is not raised, the federal government defaults on its debt, which would send ripples through the global economy.
  3. The FY18 Budget Resolution provides a high-level set of budget numbers that appropriators work against. Much like your own budget, the federal budget is anticipated spending, not what is actually spent (appropriations). Ideally, the Congress should agree on a resolution before it does appropriations, but that does not seem likely.

The interplay between the president’s proposed budget for FY18 (yes, there will be two: 1) a blueprint released in March and 2) a more detailed budget in May) and appropriations is worth an explanation. What we all learned in civics class, “the president proposes and the Congress appropriates,” sets the tone. The media frequently forgets to include this fact in their coverage of the budget, suggesting that the president has the sole power to determine the budget. In fact, he does not. He can only use his bully pulpit to ask for funding priorities. Generally speaking, the Congress, especially if it is from the same party as the president, tries to accommodate his requests. Side noteI say “he” because there has never been a “she.”

In his proposed budget, President Trump suggested cutting many programs that have powerful constituencies, causing widespread alarm among recipients of these programs. While this is certainly a wake-up call for many, the real alarm bells should be directed at the appropriators.

Which leads me to WIPP’s strategy with respect to FY18 funding of programs that support women entrepreneurs. We have concentrated on the appropriators and will continue to urge support. Members on the House Appropriations Subcommittees are the first line of defense and later, the full Appropriations Committee. After finishing with the House, we will turn our attention to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The last stop is floor action.

All told, the season to advocate on behalf of appropriations started in March, and will continue through the rest of the year. The Congress will continue to engage constituents with respect to budget decisions. On April 7, Congress will begin a two-week recess. Legislators will be in their home districts and conducting meetings. Echoing WIPP’s funding requests would be much appreciated. If you are a government contractor, consider voicing the need for stability in the federal budget.  If you support local nonprofit organizations, take a look at federal support dollars and speak up.

The time is now.

Rolling Back the Regulations

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

As we’ve said before, the 115th Congress is off to the races. While the Senate has been busy confirming the president’s nominees, the House has been diligently working to limit agency reach by rolling back specific rules.

Below are highlights of two rules you should know about. We are tracking them, so you don’t have to.

OSHA Recordkeeping Rule

Give me the basics:

  • 12/16/16: The Occupational Health and Safety Administration finalized a rule extending the timeframe that employers have to keep records of workplace injuries or incidents from six months to five years.
  • The rule allowed an agency to cite employers for record-keeping violations that go as far back as five years.

Why should I care?

  • The rule could add a significant cost to the management of workplace safety and workers’ compensation programs for employers, and does nothing to improve workplace safety and health.

What’s the status?

  • Last week, the House halted the rule from taking effect.
  • This rule repeal now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass.
  • More information about the repeal of the rule can be found in WIPP’s statement here.

Contractor Blacklisting Rule

Give me the basics:

  • The rule finalized in October required contractors and subcontractors to disclose violations of 14 federal labor and employment laws, and state equivalents, when bidding on a contract. Requiring a DOL employee to clear prospective contractors would add an additional step, resulting in likely losing the award.
  • While a federal judge halted implementation of most of the rule in October, this Congressional repeal would halt the rule for good.

Why should I care?

  • WIPP’s official comment on the rule highlighted concerns that the rule went too far, and may do more harm than good

What’s the status?

  • This week, the Senate followed the House in voting to repeal the U.S. Department of Labor Fair Pay, Safe Workplaces rule, also known as the Contractor Blacklisting Rule.
  • President Trump is expected to sign the repeal into law

March Madness: A Policy Version—The Elite Eight

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

For many years, my son Matt and I watched March Madness together (that was until he moved to Los Angeles). Not only are many of the games squeakers, I love the upsets and Cinderella teams that emerge during the tournament. Half of the fun is filling out the brackets and guessing which teams will move forward.

So, in honor of March madness, we bring you March policy madness. We have created a policy bracket of the issues we expect will make it past the first round of Congressional action. Just for fun.

WIPP Works Bracket March 2017.png 

Here’s an explanation of the Policy Brackets:

Upper Left: Healthcare vs. Border Wall

President Trump’s Executive Actions have identified both repeal of Obamacare and the potential construction of a border wall. Congressional attention is focused on repealing and or replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare wins this round.

Upper Left: Regulatory Reform vs. FY2018 Appropriations

Congress is hungry to take back policy-making power from the Executive Branch and has found a sweet spot—rolling back regulations—a move President Trump agrees with. He has already signed legislation repealing a Department of Interior rule and is expected to sign more repeals in the coming months.

On the other hand, appropriations is a long and cumbersome process. To get started, on Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations, President Trump needs to share a budget outline with Congress expected next month, and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will need to pass all 11 appropriations bills by the end of September. This is a process that has not occurred in over 20 years.

Regulatory reform wins this round.

Lower Left: Trade vs. Supreme Court Nominee

President Trump has indicated that reforming trade policy is a high priority.  But revamping global trade deals into bilateral negotiations will prove to be complicated. The Supreme Court vacancy, on the other hand, has been top of mind. Some Senate Democrats have privately conceded that they expect Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, taking the place of Antonin Scalia.

The bracket goes to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Lower Left: Debt Ceiling v. Government Shutdown

Toward the end of the summer, the Treasury Department will have exhausted all “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills. Once again, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling. This close-to-annual exercise used to be non-controversial. But not anymore. This is an opportunity for Congress to discuss fiscal policy.

Another opportunity to discuss fiscal policy is the expiration of the Continuing Resolution on April 28th. In the past, government shutdowns have been threatened/executed, putting continued funding of the government at risk. Given that both Houses of Congress and the president are from the same party, it doesn’t seem likely that shutting down the government is an option. That being said, crazier things have happened in Washington.

Due to timing, debt ceiling wins by a single foul shot.

Upper Right: Taxes vs. Immigration

Tax reform, a priority of both the president and the Congress, is long overdue. In fact, comprehensive tax reform has not been successful since 1986. But don’t look for action overnight. Congressional Republicans are suggesting it will be undertaken sometime this fall.

On the other hand, immigration is even more contentious and bipartisan reform plans were last successful in 1996 under President Clinton. Since then, although there have been many efforts, reform has been elusive.

Tax wins this round.

Upper Right: Defense Spending vs. Infrastructure

Appropriators are currently preparing a special supplemental funding bill for the Defense Department and President Trump announced he would like to add $54 billion to the defense budget. The infrastructure bill hasn’t gained as much traction as the rhetoric about its importance.

Defense spending wins this round.

Lower right: FY17 Omnibus Appropriations vs. NDAA

The National Defense Authorization Act has a 55-year history of being signed into law each year. It is considered in Congress a “must pass” bill. Omnibus appropriations that combine multiple appropriations into a single bill have a spotty record at best. While Omnibus appropriations passed in Fiscal Year 2016, it is still unclear how the rest of FY17 will be funded. Because no one is quite sure, we declare NDAA the winner.

NDAA wins this round.

Lower right: Spending Cuts vs. Elimination of a Federal Agency

President Trump made a campaign promise to significantly decrease agency spending and is expected to propose major cuts in the FY2018 budget. Although eliminating agencies is possible, it is easier to starve an agency than eliminate it altogether.

Spending cuts win this round.

The Elite Eight issues that we predict will prevail to the next round in Washington are:

  • Regulatory Reform
  • Healthcare
  • Supreme Court Appointment
  • Debt Ceiling
  • Tax
  • Defense spending
  • NDAA
  • Spending Cuts

In Washington policy circles, representing women-owned businesses is often like rooting for the underdog. Women across the country who have joined our voice often end up winning the policy fight even though they are dismissed in the “first round.” But collectively, we can end up being the winners who bring home the victory. Not just for us, but for those who have come before us and those that are coming behind us.

Which issues do you think will score over the coming month? Tweet at us @WIPPWeDecide #DCelite8 with your predictions for the Final Policy Four.

Pamela O’Rourke, WIPP’s National Partner of the Month – March 2017

Pamela O'Rourke.jpg

Pamela O’Rourke, president and CEO of ICON information Consultants, serves on WIPP’s board of directors and has been a strong supporter of the organization through her leadership and generous contributions of time and fiscal support. Indeed, Pamela became WIPP’s very first donor to earn the “Trailblazer” title in February by contributing $10,000 to support our education work and advocacy on behalf of women business owners in Washington, D.C.

It’s thanks to people like Pamela that WIPP thrives. Thank you, Pamela!

Q Tell us a little about ICON and its mission.

A ICON Information Consultants, LP, is a Houston-based, woman-owned (WBENC Certified) staffing and payrolling firm. ICON has provided recruitment and payrolling solutions for 19 years and has over 3,500 contractors on staff daily within the US and Canada. Our primary services include Contract, Contract-to-Hire, and Direct Hire Staffing services, Payrolling services, Independent Contractor Compliance and Management services, and Specialized IT Project Management services. We target clients in the Fortune 100 and 500 arena. Some of our clients include Bank of America, John Hancock, Exelon, Deutsche Bank, NRG Reliant Energy, Shell, Halliburton, HP, Waste Management, Schlumberger, Lyondell/Basell, among many others throughout the nation. Simply put, ICON’s mission is to become the best human capital solutions firm in the US.

Q Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

A Even before ICON’s inception, I maintained a firm belief that clients deserve more. Make the client happy while always doing the right thing, such as staying late, providing outstanding service internally and out, and doing the best job the first time. I realized while working for other firms that the level of service I wanted to provide was far superior to that which was requested of me. At that time, I saw a window of opportunity to channel my energy and work ethic towards a new business venture. As banks accredit no value to best intentions and denied my loan request since “people are not tangible assets,” I created a business plan and solicited two groups of friends to invest in the start-up. Between my own investment and the money I raised, in 1998, I opened ICON Information Consultants LP with $250,000 in capital. I then gave myself six months to make it work.

Q Have you encountered any challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

A ICON Information Consultants began its journey as a human capital procurement firm in the area of Information Technology. IT has always been a male-dominated field, and my approach and tenacity have broken through a few glass ceilings to ensure ICON remains at the top of our clients’ lists (recently, Bank of America noted ICON Information Consultants as their “favorite supplier”). I learned one of my biggest lessons when I first started to hire people. As an entrepreneur, I realized early on that in order to be at the top of my industry, I must build a team that shares my hunger to continuously learn and improve. As a team, we need to be ready, because competitors are poised to seize any opportunities left open. That’s why I survey the competition to ensure that ICON’s competitive advantage is consistently one step ahead of the curve (if not two).

Q Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

A The first few years of ICON Information Consultant’s existence forms the basis of my success story. Between my own investment and the money that I raised, in 1998, we opened the business with $250,000 in capital. I gave myself six months to make it work. Choosing to work only with Fortune 100 and 500 corporations because of their significant investment in state-of-the-art technology, I managed to cross over into the midmarket range within months. I thought I was going to do $70,000 my first year, but I did $2.5 million. The next year was $7.7 million. The third year was $11.7 million, then $14 million and $16 million. In 2016, revenues exceeded $270 million. That’s how glass ceilings are shattered.

Q Do you have any tips you would like to share with other women pursuing entrepreneurship?

A Get out of your comfort zone and make contacts. Once you have a prospective client’s undivided attention, know what you need to do to get on their radar, be direct with what you do and make sure they know why you’re great. Always remember: be yourself, relax, and bring lots of business cards.

Everyone Wants to Know: What’s the Top Small Biz Issue for Congress?

By Jennifer White, WIPP Government Relations

What is the number one thing small business owners want Congress to focus on this year? Is a lack of political certainty affecting America’s business environment? What can be done to better help women and minorities obtain capital to start their businesses? These are the questions the House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access discussed during a hearing entitled “State of the Small Business Economy,” giving the committee the opportunity to listen to testimony on concerns confronting small business owners in 2017.

To no one’s surprise, the committee heard that the most taxing issues to small business right now are healthcare deficiencies, tax reform, and regulatory reform. Chairman Bland posed the question, “In addressing these issues, where should we spend the most time?”

Holly Wade, Director of Research and Policy Analysis for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said you can’t pick just one. According to NFIB’s 2016 Small Business Problems and Priorities Survey, health insurance is the number one issue plaguing small business, directly followed by burdensome regulations and federal taxes. The small business economy, she said, has struggled to bounce back from the recession due to taxes, regulations, and health insurance, which consume valuable resources, including time and profits. To restore the small business economy, all three of these issues must take priority.

Another common denominator heard in each witness’ testimony was concern over lack of policy and regulatory certainty regarding the business environment. Steve Veuger, resident scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, said that despite measures such as passage of the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, requiring more careful consideration of rules and regulations and how they affect small business, measures of uncertainty have spiked in the last few months. Mr. Veuger also pointed out that Congress must be careful in the repeal and replacement of the ACA; to move forward without a clear policy direction, he said, could cause individual and small group markets to unravel in a detrimental way.

Members of the subcommittee also asked about the difficulty women and minorities still face in regard to obtaining jobs and accessing capital. According to Victor Hwang, vice president of entrepreneurship for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, an important part of that issue is that while the U.S. is increasingly becoming more racially diverse, the American entrepreneurial population does not reflect it. Today, 80.2 percent of American entrepreneurs are white and 64.5 percent are male. Mr. Hwang said that gap for racial minorities and women is costing the country millions of jobs and that the key to increasing diversity in entrepreneurship is overcoming social barriers such as race, gender, or a lack of a formal degree that can prevent individuals from turning an idea into a business reality.

Further, Bob Bland, CEO and founder of Manufacture New York, and the co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, relayed her own struggles of accessing capital because of past credit. Even with great programs it can still be difficult for women to get loans, she said, because they still don’t qualify for low interest rates, and need something that provides for more risk like venture capital, which can be even harder to obtain. Mr. Hwang agreed that access to venture capital is not on a level playing field. He suggested that building more opportunities for connections at a local level based on trust would be a core way of getting obtaining capital to a level playing field.

“Being an entrepreneur is hard and there are risks associated–it’s the spirit of being able to take a loss that makes America great—what can we do to spread the risk so that everyone everywhere has the opportunity to be one?” asked Rep. Kelly as the final question of the hearing. We educate people on how to find jobs, not how to make jobs, answered Mr. Hwang. To understand the access issues entrepreneurs face, we have to focus on the people who are starting at the bottom with nothing.

74,000 Pages of Tax Talk

By Mark Lee, WIPP Government Relations

The U.S. Tax Code is a 74,000-page maze of sections, clauses, deductions, and exemptions. Small business owners certainly do not have the time to learn every twist and turn, clause and section in the code. Not only do entrepreneurs have to keep their doors open, take care of their employees, and keep on the right side of state and local regulations, but they must also submit detailed filings to the IRS that vary across the spectrum of the small business ecosystem. So, what should be done to streamline the code and lessen the burden on our nation’s small business community?

The House Small Business Committee (HSBC) held an appropriately titled hearing, “Start-ups Stalling? The Tax Code as a Barrier to Entrepreneurship,” to begin to tackle this issue. The HSBC is one of the more bipartisan committees in the House, so it was no surprise that both Chair Steve Chabot of Ohio and Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez of New York were in general agreement that the tax code is desperately in need of reform and simplification.

The hearing was convened at a time when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was busy whipping up support for a comprehensive federal tax code overhaul—one not seen since the Reagan Administration. Ranking Member Velazquez made it clear that small businesses must be at the forefront of any tax overhaul. Since pass-throughs, S-Corps, and LLCs are all subject to different tax regimes, Rep. Velazquez mentioned simple business formation is one of the first complicated tax hurdles that an entrepreneur must clear.

Additionally, startups and small businesses are often operating in the red or on very slim revenue margins so an unexpected hurdle could potentially be ruinous. Chair Chabot asked the panel about the cost of compliance and the fear of audits. As we all know, most small businesses do their taxes in-house and cannot afford accountants and tax attorneys. The panel unanimously agreed that this was among the most pressing tax burdens they face. Witness Tim Reynolds. The president of Tribune, Inc. of Hudson, Ohio, testifying on behalf of the National Small Business Association, recounted his own recent audit costs. His small firm paid thousands of dollars in compliance costs alone: a number that doesn’t account for the lost business and revenue that resulted from the audit process. Other witnesses included Mr. Kyle Pomerleau, director of Federal Projects at the Tax Foundation; Troy Lewis, CPA, CGMA and immediate past chair of the American Institute of CPAs’ Tax Executive Committee, and David Burton, senior fellow of economic policy at the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation.

In an already wild start to a new Administration and Congress, tax reform remains near the top of both of their agendas. Small businesses everywhere are rightfully screaming for relief. We need to stay on top of advocating for tax reform that is a less burdensome regulatory regime for our nation’s vital job creators.